Starting a conversation with your teen can be challenging in the best of times, let alone if you are worried about their well-being and emotional safety. You might be seeing signs of anxiety and depression, or even worried about self-harm or other behaviors indicating they are struggling. How do you broach potentially difficult topics? There is no right answer, but here are a few ideas to spark a connection. Beneath whatever protective exterior your teen is displaying, inside they simply want to know they are loved and cared for. Simply showing an interest can have surprising results.
1. What's your favorite song right now, do you think I'd like it?
2. What is the most embarrassing thing I do?
3. If your life was a TV show, which one would it be?
4. If an alien landed in your class today, what would they be most surprised to see?
5. If you could eat only one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
1. What would your perfect day look like?
2. What are the best parts and hardest parts of your day?
3. What did you do that you are most proud of today?
4. If you could start today all over again, is there anything you would do differently?
5. Did you see any acts of kindness today at school?
1. What is it that makes you feel sad and why?
2. What do you do when you feel sad or upset?
3. How can I best support you?
4. What do you need from me? (distraction, space, time, etc)
5. How do you soothe yourself when you're feeling scared?
1. I love you, and nothing will ever change that.
2. Even if I don't understand, know that I want to.
3. We are going to get through this together.
4. If you talk to me about what is worrying you, I will do my best to help.
5. You can talk to me, I am always here for you. You can talk to someone else, that's okay too.
While these may start a conversation, remember it's the listening to their responses that is the most important. Encourage with a "hmmm" or "tell me more" to keep the ball rolling. Your teen may not show appreciation in the moment, but they will know you are there, and care.
Talley Webb, MA, CRMC